Dr. Rolf Groesbeck, Professor of Music History/Musicology/Ethnomusicology, is active as an ethnomusicologist and performer (the South Indian drum chenda, the North Indian drum tabla, piano, keyboards, other global and Western percussion). His research has been mostly on the temple drumming of Kerala (India), where he conducted fieldwork between 1988 and 1990, in 2000, 2006, and in 2012, receiving a grant from the American Institute of Indian Studies. He has published articles in the journals International Journal of Hindu Studies (2018, on the coexistence of gifts and commodities in institutional pedagogy in Kerala); Ethnomusicology (1999, on improvisation); Yearbook for Traditional Music (2003, on timbre); Asian Music (1999, on the classical/folk dichotomy); and the Indian journal Kalasamskaram. His chapter “Disciple and Preceptor/Performer in Kerala,” based on a paper he gave at an International Council for Traditional Music colloquium at Harvard U. in 2004, appeared in the book Theorizing the Local (R. Wolf, ed., Oxford U. Press, 2009). He has published lengthy encyclopedia entries in the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music (on Kerala) and in the SAGE Encyclopedia of Music and Culture (on the ethnomusicological study of the individual and on ethnomusicological treatments of form), in addition to reviews in Ethnomusicology, Asian Music, World of Music, Museum Anthropology, and Yearbook for Traditional Music. He has also presented papers at Harvard U. (twice), at the U. of Chicago (also twice), at meetings of the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM)(national and regional), the College Music Society (national and international), and at the South Asia Conference (Madison, Wisconsin), at a meeting of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (Estonia), and at UA Little Rock’s 2003 Arkansongs festival (on Robert Palmer’s contributions to American music), the Little Rock Film Festival, and a lecture-demonstration at the Little Rock Music Coterie. He has served as president of two different regional chapters of SEM (Southeast-Caribbean, 2000-01, and Southern Plains, 2012-13), on the local arrangements committee of the Society for American Music (2013), and on SEM program committees (regional and national). He coordinated the 2011 South Central/College Music Society meeting at UA Little Rock. His 1995 Ph.D. dissertation (New York U.) is one of the monuments of the scholarly literature on the music of Kerala. He also has BA and BM (Piano, Music History) degrees from Oberlin College.
In addition to his chenda (Kerala drum) performances throughout Kerala and in many venues in the US, including regularly at meetings of the Arkansas Kerala Association, he performs classical piano frequently at UA Little Rock, as an accompanist, soloist, and participant in piano ensembles including the UA Little Rock Piano Ensemble. He also has performed jazz piano (at venues including Dave’s Place in Little Rock, the Clinton Presidential Center, and the Bluebird Café in Nashville, TN); neo-soul and soft rock music on keyboards (with the Little Rock band Belle Camino); and Indian and Middle Eastern percussion in many places in Ireland with the singer-songwriter-dulcimerist Ricko Donovan, with the Perfumed Garden Cafe Orchestra (Nashville, TN Middle Eastern dance band), and with Serenatta (Nashville Latin music ensemble). When he lived in New York he worked with the Germany-based Palindrome Dance Company (composer, keyboards, homemade percussion); the composers’ collective Music for Homemade Instruments (composer, homemade percussion); Laura Dean Dancers and Musicians (keyboards); Gamelan Son of Lion (composer, Indonesian percussion); and the (New York) Downtown Ensemble (keyboards, percussion), among many others. His accordion piece “Polka I” was released on a Starkland CD in 2012 (Guy Klucevsek, Polka from the Fringe).
Dr. Groesbeck previously taught at Vanderbilt, Brooklyn College, New York University, and the University of Virginia, among other institutions. At UA Little Rock he teaches courses in music history, world musics, and a Donaghey Scholars course in the Individual and the Creative Arts (team-taught with faculty in Art History and Theater/Dance), in addition to private and group lessons in chenda and tabla. He also has directed numerous master’s theses, private readings, and undergraduate capstone theses. He coordinates departmental advising, serves on the MAIS advisory committee and the CALS Policy Advisory Board, and has served two terms on the university’s Faculty Senate, as well as on the Arkansas Kerala Association’s Cultural Committee. His biographies appeared in the 2006 and 2007 editions of Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in American Education. Dr. Groesbeck won the CALS Faculty Excellence Award in Teaching in 2018, and won an award for excellence in service to students from the UA Little Rock chapter of the National Society for Leadership and Success in 2019.